03/28/2010 12:00AM

Drosselmeyer gets a final shot at Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Drosselmeyer is hoping for a hot pace to set up his late run in Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS - The choicest post-meal items in this gastronomic fantasyland might be bread pudding, or some pralines, perhaps even the signature beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. For trainer Bill Mott on Saturday, he's hoping he gets his just deserts in the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, where Drosselmeyer will try to complete a Mott parlay stretching from Dubai to the Derby.

Mott is in Dubai, where he will run Courageous Cat on Saturday in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free. A few hours later, round about midnight in the United Arab Emirates, he will watch to see if Drosselmeyer, his top prospect for the May 1 Kentucky Derby, can atone for a setback as the favorite in last month's Risen Star Stakes here and fulfill the promise expected of him at the beginning of the year.

It will not be easy. Drosselmeyer drew the outside post in a bulky field of 13 going 1 1/8 miles, and he will have to beat the horses who won Fair Grounds' significant preps for the Louisiana Derby, they being Discreetly Mine, who led from start to finish in the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star last month, and Ron the Greek, who won the Lecomte in January and, like Drosselmeyer, had his late charge compromised by a soft pace in the Risen Star.

Although he was halfway around the world, Mott's dry humor came through loud and clear over the telephone Thursday morning.

"I wasn't hoping for the outside," he said, "but we'll make the best of it.

"The horse is doing fine, the extra distance should help, and hopefully there will be more pace to string the field out," Mott added.

The Louisiana Derby is the 10th race on a 13-race card that begins at 12:10 p.m. Central. It is the final leg of an all-stakes pick four at Fair Grounds that has a guaranteed pool of $125,000. The race will be televised live by the USA cable network. HRTV also will have on-site coverage all day.

There are three other graded stakes for Derby prospects this weekend. First up are the Grade 2, $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai and the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, both on Saturday, followed by the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby on Sunday.

The Louisiana Derby was moved this year to five weeks before the Kentucky Derby, occupying a spot that the Florida Derby had claimed in recent years. As such, for just about everyone in this race, it is the final chance to get to Churchill Downs.

Drosselmeyer was fourth of 12 in the Risen Star, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by Discreetly Mine. There is more apparent pace in this race, so Discreetly Mine may have company up front, or even concede the lead to someone intent on taking it.

"I hope we'll be following someone, but we're not going to take him back off a half in 50 to prove it," Todd Pletcher, who trains Discreetly Mine, said Thursday. "But I think we'll end up following someone."

Pletcher also sends out Mission Impazible, who ran a deceptively good race when fourth of 10 in the Southwest at Oaklawn after starting from the far outside post.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Louisiana Derby is whether A Little Warm can successfully handle two turns after a pair of tune-ups in sprint stakes at Gulfstream, including a second-place finish in last month's Hutcheson Stakes going seven furlongs.

"Honestly, I don't know if he can handle the distance," said Tony Dutrow, who trains A Little Warm. "I do know he's a quality horse. But I just don't know. We're going to see if he can. It's the time of year to find out. It's a big, big race, with lots of money. He'll get his chance."

Late-runners Stay Put (fifth in the Risen Star) and Ron the Greek (sixth) want a quicker pace than they got last time out.

"With 13 horses, you've got front-runners, stalkers, closers," said Steve Margolis, who trains Stay Put. "It should be a good race."

Trainer Nick Zito, who scored an upset in the Florida Derby last week with Ice Box, is hoping for similar results here with Fly Down, who is making his stakes debut following an allowance win at Gulfstream that marked his first start in nearly three months.

"He's shown a lot of promise," said Tim Poole, the Zito assistant who is here with Fly Down. "He ran a good race going a mile and eighth off a big, long layoff. It was a promising performance, the way the track was playing, to come off the pace like that."

The Program has shipped in from California, where he was third in the Sham Stakes three weeks ago. His best effort was a fourth-place finish behind top Derby contenders Lookin At Lucky, Noble's Promise, and Make Music for Me in the CashCall Futurity, run at Hollywood Park, whose all-weather Cushion Track surface often approximates performances on dirt.

* Retired jockey Randy Romero will be at Fair Grounds on Saturday to sign his just-released book, "Randy Romero's Remarkable Ride," with co-author Bill Heller.